friends-talking

How to Love

Program 1: What is Real Love?

by Ernest O'Neill

How to love -- that's what we're going to discuss these next few weeks together at this time each morning. How to love. It does seem that everyone agrees that that is what we human beings should aim at in our lives. We should aim at loving each other. It doesn’t matter if you’re religious or non-religious. It doesn’t matter if you’re atheist or agnostic. It doesn’t matter if you’re Catholic or Jewish. It doesn’t matter if you’re Presbyterian or Church of England. Everybody on earth seems to agree that that is what human beings should do to one another. They should love each other.

It doesn't matter how modern you are in your ethics. It doesn't matter how much you believe in a libertarian view of life, or how much you believe in a conservative view of life. It doesn’t seem to matter if you're male or female. It doesn’t t even seem to matter if your personality is an attractive or an unattractive one. It doesn’t even matter if you like people or don’t like people. Every human being on earth seems to feel that that is what we should be doing to each other. We should be loving one another. So that s what we are going to try to discuss over the next weeks -- how to love one another.

Perhaps the first responsibility we have is to define love because there are many different views of love in our day and many diluted ideas of love and diluted definitions of love. So, it’s good to agree upon a definition of love together. The one that I would like to suggest to begin with is the one that is often quoted on Memorial Day or days when we remember the sacrifices that people have made for their country --days when we remember the great sacrifice, the greatest sacrifice of all that any man can make for another.

You remember on days like that we quote the definition of love that was given by a man who lived in Galilee at the beginning of our era, the man called Jesus of Nazareth. We quote his words. They are words that are recorded in the Bible in a book of the New Testament called John. In John and in chapter 15 and verse 13, it’s recorded that Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” That’s the definition that’s quoted repeatedly on days like Memorial Day or in Europe on Armistice Day.

We remember wars that have been fought for our countries and wars that have been fought to defend the rights of other human beings. We quote that verse. We say this is the greatest love that a person can show another person, when they lay down their life for that person. Perhaps we could begin with that definition since that seems the most universally accepted one, the one that we will quote as the highest thing that a person can do to show another person that they love them: Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Now some of you may say, "I'm not very anxious to show that degree of love to another person. After all, that verse does say, "Greater love has no man than this. Well, I m prepared to settle for a kind of lesser degree of love than that. I don t want to live my life as self-sacrificial as that is implied in that verse.”  Yet, we cannot hold back like that, can we? We can’t say to one another, “That’s a high degree of love, a great degree of heroic living, but I really don’t want to live my life on that level. I would like to choose a level rather lower than that that might be a little more comfortable, a little more bearable.”  There s something in us that argues against that kind of approach to love, isn’t there? There’s something inside us that seems to say, “Yes, that’s what love is, and that’s the kind of love that I want to show in my life.” In other words, it goes against the grain for me to suggest to you this morning that that is the ideal of love that we human beings have in our minds.

But now, in regard to your wife at home, or to your children, or in regard to your brother or your sister, or in regard to your friends, or in regard to your colleagues at work, or in regard to your fellow students at school, I suggest you choose something a little less perfect than this to show to them. I suggest that you live your life not on this high, elevated basis. I suggest that you show a love to them that is not so costly and that is not so ideal as this. There’s something inside you that says, “Forget it. I don’t want to be involved in something that is less than love. I want to love. I want to love.”

That's what we say is our responsibility to society today. That's what we say is the cause of so much unhappiness in our homes: the lack of love. That’s why we say many children go wrong: they don’t get that love they need to have. That’s why we say our schools are so poverty-stricken in their influence upon the students that they try to teach. We say that teachers do not love their students. That’s why we say that the huge corporations are so indifferent and so cruel to their workers, because they have no love for them. That’s why social workers say so many people are in prison today, because people do not love them. That’s why we say government is irresponsible. We say it doesn’t love its citizens. It doesn’t care about them. That’s why so many politicians insist on saying that they care about us because they believe that’s what we all want. We want people to care for us and to love us.

"If that's love, then I want to love like that. I don't want to love on some lower level. I don't want to live my life at some lower level of love than that. If that's the greatest love that we know or we can experience on earth, then that’s the kind of love I want to show my friends. It’s the kind of love I want to show my son or my daughter. It’s the kind of love I want to have in my daily life. If that’s what love is, then I want to practice that love. I don’t want my friends or my relatives or myself to experience something less than what love is. If that’s love, then that’s what I want to practice in my life. There’s something inside each of us that makes us feel like that, isn’t there? There’s something inside us that makes us want to live up to the very best that we know. So that’s the love we’re going to discuss in these next days together at this time.

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